Radical Approach to new Epic Issues class

By Caroline Diamond, Reporter

Epic Issues Seminar Class: It’s not Speech and Debate. Epic Issues, a discussion based class that takes a radical approach towards students’ ideas and questions, has been reintroduced to Cleveland.

Currently, Epic Issues is an elective taught by Lynne Allers during third and fourth period. Fourteen years ago this course was referred to as Senior Seminar and was a graduation requirement. Spanning a semester, Senior Seminar was taught by multiple teachers, which ensured students the opportunity to learn from various teaching styles and gave each teacher a way to demonstrate their specialities.

However, explained Jan Watt, “Years ago interest in the class, as far as teachers were concerned, started to diminish, and so it disappeared from the course catalog, until Ms. Allers picked it up again.”

The definition of Epic Issues, an issue that affects a large population over an extensive period of time, is used as a platform for students to pose questions, engage in discussion and participate in socratic seminars.

Over the course of the year, students are graded based on their participation in seminars and the completion of two large “action research projects.” These projects outline how specific epic issues impact every day student life.

Provided with a menu of options, students vote on topics to discuss in class. These topics range from peace and conflict to art and society. Because of this, each class has a different curriculum based on student interest.

Because students decide what to learn, opinions and judgements are easily expressed. Allers explained, “I’m passionate about how students are talking to each other. It’s a class that’s going to challenge people because they have to talk through some of their strong opinions. The point is not to push your opinion on another person, but to understand why the issue is of importance, and how it became this way.”

Epic Issues started the year discussing oil drilling in the arctic. This topic was chosen because of its local ties. Over the summer, Greenpeace protested and blocked an oil drilling ship on its way to Seattle at the Saint Johns Bridge. This issue was then expanded through text and various videos to protesters all over the country and climate change in general. After arctic drilling came to a close, 9/11 and how America is still influenced by this tragedy today, was introduced. Students interviewed family members about their 9/11 experience and watched videos on other countries that have their own “9/11s.” Now, both classes of Epic Issues have gone their separate ways. Third period will discuss gender inequality, while fourth period will discuss cultural appropriation.

In the future,  Allers hopes to have aspects of Senior Seminar in Epic Issues. In this way students would, again, have the opportunity to learn from multiple teachers in a single class. At a mere 50 students, expanding and developing Epic issues will be difficult, but if more students register the change can eventually take place.

Lanie Neher, a sophomore, expressed her love for the class. “I would definitely recommend Epic Issues to other students. It’s really great to learn and know about what is going on in the world and what impact it has on us.”

Epic Issues engages sophomores to seniors in a non-debate oriented class that helps students further their knowledge while posing insightful questions about current events that affect the world.